"Slow down buddy," I laugh once the door closes behind us.
"Are we playing more soccer today Dad?" Masen asks excitedly as he continues to drag Ms. Swan and I towards the elevator.
"I don't know Mase, maybe later. I was hoping that Ms. Swan would take us around and show us Seattle a little bit," I say looking slyly at Isabella, indirectly asking her to pick today's activities. "Do you know of any places that might interest Masen, Isabella?"
"Oh, there are plenty of places that we could go," she says stepping into the elevator with Masen and I following after her.
"Can I press the button?" Masen requests eagerly.
I chuckle as I nod my head in assent, resting my hands on the top of his shoulders. "Number three," Isabella instructs. When I look over at her questioningly she explains, "I'm parked in the parking garage. There is a causeway on the third floor that we can take to get over there. I thought it would be better for you than using the lobby, plus there weren't many open spots on the street."
Masen immediately pushes the three button and we begin our descent. "I'm not all that familiar with places for children in Seattle, but I looked up some things online after we talked and I think I may have found a few that sound promising. I was thinking we could stop at The Children's Museum first, and depending on how long we stay there, there's a zoo or park we could stop by after," she says nervously, as if she's worried I might not like what she had planned.
"That sounds good to me. How does that sound to you Masen?"
He scowls at the floor. "I don't wanna go to a museum; they're boring. You have to be quiet and you can't touch anything," he says morosely.
Isabella and I chuckle in response. "It's not one of those kinds of museums Masen. This one was made especially for children to run around and play in; I promise that you'll find something that you like," she tries to pacify him.
"If you say so," he mumbles as we all exit the elevator.
I smile apologetically at Ms. Swan, trying to reassure her that her plan sounds good. I grab Masen's hand as we follow her to the car.
"Um, this is it," she says timidly, pointing to an old, red, rusty Chevrolet truck. She shifts uncertainly next to the bumper. "I guess I didn't really think it through when I offered to drive. I would totally understand if you wanted to call your driver-"
I raise my hand to cut off her babbling. "It's fine Ms. Swan; as long as it runs properly I have no qualm riding with you," I say raking my eyes over the ancient truck.
"It runs just fine. The max it goes is 55 mph, but besides that," she shrugs. "Jake has worked on it quite a bit over the past couple years once he started tinkering with cars, so it runs good."
"Okay, let's go then," I say trying to give her an encouraging smile, even though I'm silently begging God to not let the truck break down today.
Isabella walks around to the driver's side, unlocking her door. She jumps in the cab and reaches over to unlock the passenger door, no power locks. I lift Masen into the cab and climb in after him, helping him with his seatbelt in between Ms. Swan and I before fastening my own. She turns on the truck, the loud noise startling Masen and I.
"Sorry," she apologizes. "It's no Mercedes, but in a crash the tank would crush a Mercedes," she says patting the dashboard affectionately. She suddenly blushes and slowly backs out of her spot and we're officially on our way.
"Mercedes are nothing special. I'm driven around in them all the time, so I don't really get to enjoy it exactly. Most of the time I'm too tired to even know my surroundings, let alone care what type of car I'm in," I run my hand up the back my neck, looking out the window.
"I didn't mean to-" she starts before I cut her off again.
"I know. So are you excited to get out of the hotel Masen," I ask changing the subject.
"Yeah," he says excitedly. He continues to ramble about this and that, effectively brushing off the awkwardness between Isabella and I that had settled in.
"Here we are," Isabella says, pulling into the parking lot of the museum sometime later.
I'm a little worried that Masen won't like The Children's Museum. I've never been to one before so I have no idea what to expect, but children and museums don't seem like a good combination to me. I hope that for Isabella's sake that Masen enjoys it; I don't want her to be disappointed, or Masen for that matter.
We walk into the museum and stand in line for our tickets. Masen looks around eagerly at all the other children running around and starts getting anxious to join them. Once we reach the front of the line, the woman at the counter does a double take when sees me.
"Edward Cullen?" she stammers looking at me with wide eyes.
I give her a tight-lipped smile and nod my head in assent. "Yes, I would like two adult tickets and one child please," I say as nicely as possible, hoping she won't draw too much attention to my presence.
"Um," she stutters, "I'll be right back with the manager sir." She rushes away before I can stop her.
I huff at her retreating form and look at a curious Ms. Swan standing next to me. Before I can offer an explanation the woman and manager return.
"Mr. Cullen on behalf of The Children's Museum Seattle we would like to welcome you. Your entrance admission will be free of charge and if you need anything at all during your visit don't hesitate to ask me or another staff member," the manager says graciously, eyeing Ms. Swan and Masen peculiarly.
"Thank for your generous offer, but I insist on paying the admission fee just like any other visitor. I appreciate your hospitality, but we will not be requiring any special privileges today," I say politely, handing over enough cash to cover the entrance fee. The manager speechlessly hands over the wristbands and pamphlets of the museum as I grab Masen's hand and drag him away from the line, with Ms. Swan trailing behind us.
I didn't mean to be rude but I don't like accepting things for free. I will never understand why becoming famous entitles celebrities to free things, or makes them think that they are entitled to free things. It reminds me of that line from Love Actually, "Hiya kids. Here is an important message… Don't buy drugs. Become a pop star, and they give you them for free!" That line rings so true. Become famous and now that you can afford to buy ridiculously expensive things you don't have to because you get it for free. It doesn't make any sense to me, but I make it a point to pay whenever I can.
I pass Isabella her wristband and distractedly help Masen with his before putting my own on. "Where do you want to go to first Masen?" I ask.
"This way," he shouts dragging me off to the side, following a couple of kids.
We stop on the outskirts of all the action, watching the other children play. "This is the Imagination Studio," Isabella explains besides me. "It's a kid-sized art studio."
I nod my head in acknowledgment and bend down to Masen's height. "Do you want to go make something Masen? It looks like there's painting or clay if you want," I say pointing out the various stations.
He squeezes my hand and shuffles closer to me. "I don't know anyone," he whispers.
"That's okay. Do you want me to come with you?"
He nods his head and hesitantly goes over to the painting station. I help him get paper, paint, and a smock to cover his clothes. He starts painting and a little boy next to him starts talking to him, letting me escape back to Ms. Swan's side.
"Looks like he made a friend pretty quickly," she smiles in greeting.
I chuckle. "Yeah," I say running a hand through my hair nervously. "He didn't even notice me leaving his side." After a short pause I apologize, "Listen, I'm sorry for my behavior with the tickets. I don't like taking free handouts, especially when I have the capability to pay for almost anything I could want. I don't mean to be rude when situations like this arise, but it frustrates me. I know that's no excuse to act the way I did, but I don't want you to think that's my typical behavior," I say exhaling a big breath when I'm done.
"Oh," she says surprised. "You don't need to apologize. Quite frankly, I didn't think anything of it. I was more surprised about their response to you than your response to their offer. Is that typical for you to get reactions like that?"
"Yes and no," I say slowly. "If you're referring to the free admission part and the manager trying to schmooze me, then yes. But when other people recognize me it could be anything from squealing fans to asking for a picture or autograph. One of the joys of being on the big screen I guess," I say turning to her with a tight smile.
"I'm sorry. That's got to be hard for you."
I shrug, "I knew it was a possibility when I went into the business. Plus, there's not much I can do about it now. Even if I decided to quit acting tomorrow I would still be recognized and tracked, especially with my sister and brother-in-law still in the business. I'm just sorry I had to bring Masen into this world I'm in. I never dreamed of raising a kid in the spotlight, especially when I didn't exactly have choice. Luckily no one has found out about him yet, but it's only a matter of time. I wouldn't be surprised if there are paparazzi waiting for us outside actually. It's very likely that they found out that we are here."
"Oh I'm so sorry. I completely forgot about that; I shouldn't have chosen such a public place. We can leave if you'd like and go someplace else," she offers quickly.
"No, no, this is fine," I assure her at the panicked look on her face. "It will get out eventually and Masen deserves to get out. He's been held up in the hotel for a while; he needs this. He got out a little bit with my parents and when my brother-in-law was visiting but not much. The most he gets out is when he's visiting me on set and that can't be all that fun for him."
"If you're sure," Isabella replies uncertainly. "Is there a reason it hasn't gotten out to the press yet that you have a son? If it's too personal you don't have to answer."
"No it's not too personal. I haven't been followed since I've gotten to Seattle so it's only a matter of time before they show up. And if they do happen to see me out and about I'm usually alone so they wouldn't see Masen anyway. But once they do spot us, it will be a nightmare. I could make a statement now and prevent it from taking us off guard and scaring Masen, but I guess I'm trying to save him from that situation as long as possible."
"That makes sense."
"Dad, Dad! Look what I painted!" Masen yells grabbing my hand with his paint filled ones and dragging me back to his project. Luckily, the yelling didn't cause too many heads to turn because it is already loud with all the other children and parents talking.
I chuckle at his enthusiasm, "Now what do we have here?" I question while scanning his work with a smile. On one side of the paper is a house with what appear to be flames around it and two people inside, one with Xs for eyes. There is also a person outside of the house looking at it. On the other side of the page is what looks like a room with three people in it.
My smile falters slightly as I take in what the meaning of his painting must be. "That looks pretty cool Mase. Perhaps we should let it dry and we'll come and grab it when we're ready to leave, how does that sound?" I ask, making a mental note to question him later about the painting.
"Good," he replies.
"Alright, well let's clean up our mess here and then we'll move on to something else."
"Okay," he readily agrees.
Isabella and I help him clean up his station and then we make our way to the next exhibit.
"It's pretty nice outside, do you want to check out the Lil' Green Thumbs exhibit? You can help them plant, water, and harvest their garden. Does that seem like something you want to try Masen?" Ms. Swan asks.
"Sure, I like to play in the dirt," he smiles.
We smile and go to the outdoor exhibit where we teach Masen how to plant a seed and water it, gaining another souvenir to take home with us. After we're done playing in the dirt, as Masen likes to call it, we head over to the Story Telling Circle.
Masen sits down with the other kids while a museum employee reads a story to them. He then grabs a book and asks me to read it to him. Halfway through the story Masen complains, "I'm hungry." I laugh and look at the time and notice it's almost three in the afternoon.
"Wow, it's a lot later than I thought it was. No wonder you're hungry," I say giving him a noogie. "We skipped lunch."
"Hey!" he laughs trying to move hands away.
I smile down at him, "Shall we pick up your painting and get something to eat?"
He nods his head vigorously. "Alright let's go," I say pulling him up from our position on the ground.
I'm holding Masen's painting in one hand and one of his hands in the other as we make our way out of the museum. Flashes assault my vision as yelling bombards my ears as we walk out the door. "Shit," I mutter under my breath. Masen squeezes my hand tightly as he freezes beside me at the same time I sense Ms. Swan stiffen on the opposite side.
I hastily hand over the painting to Isabella and scoop Masen into my arms as we rush to her truck. "What's happening?" Masen questions into my neck. I can feel his tears falling onto my shirt and dampening it.
Isabella quickly unlocks the doors and we hop in. Somewhere along the way some sort of security stepped in to prevent some of the photographers from following us all the way to the vehicle, but a few still managed to slip by.
"Edward! Who's the boy?"
"Is that your son?"
"Who's the woman with you?"
"Are you dating? Is that her son?"
The questions are repetitious and never-ending as Ms. Swan tries to maneuver her way out of the parking lot. Once we're safely on the road and away from prying eyes, I release my death grip on Masen and buckle him into his seat.
"Who were all those people? And why were they yelling and taking pictures?" Masen sniffles, leaning into my side.
I wrap my arm around his shoulders trying to comfort him as best I can, "That was the paparazzi. They take pictures of daddy because of my job. And because you were with me they wanted to know who you were," I try to explain.
"I don't like them; they're scary. Can't you tell them to go away?"
"I wish it were that easy buddy. I'm afraid that they will be around for a while to come. If a stranger ever comes up to talk to you, don't talk to them unless I tell you it's okay. If you're alone, make sure to find someone that you know whether it's me, Ms. Swan, Ms. Alice, or grandma and grandpa. Anyone, just as long as you're with one of us, do you understand?"
"Yes," he answers softly.
"So what aren't you suppose to do, can you tell me?" I question.
"Don't talk to strangers and find someone I know," he recites.
"Good. And don't forget that. I'm sorry that they scared you buddy, I should have warned you about them. How are you handling it over there Isabella?"
"Hm?" she mumbles, looking over at me briefly before turning her attention back to the road.
"I asked how you were doing."
"Oh. Good, good. A little bewildered at the moment, but I'm sure it will pass soon enough. It's one thing to think about it happening to other people, and another to actually experience it yourself. I was completely unprepared for that. How do handle it?" she asks incredulously.
I laugh humorlessly, "I would say you get used to it, but I guess the more proper phrasing would be that you get numb to it. You learn to walk quickly to your destination, ignore the questions, and don't talk to them. People have an absolutely ridiculous cultural obsession about the lives of celebrities that I could do without, especially when it brings my friends or family unwanted attention. And now Masen is going to be across every media outlet around the world within minutes, and there's not a thing I can do about it. Speaking of, I should probably call my agent and publicist."
"Did you want me to take you back to the hotel? Or did you want to stop and eat first?" she asks more calmly than before.
"We should probably just head back so we don't get caught up in another shit storm without proper security. Hopefully there won't be anyone waiting for us when we get there," I say agitated.
On our way back to the hotel I call Jane and Heidi and explain the situation to them. While we were in the museum they had already been fielding phone calls from every major media outlet in the country asking for details. I give the go ahead for them to release a statement saying that I was recently connected with my son after his mother's passing. Hopefully that will give them enough to go on for now and they won't feel the need to dig further into his past then that, although I know that most likely won't happen.
Luckily when we reach the hotel there doesn't appear to be anyone waiting for us. Isabella quickly parks and we hastily make our way back to the room. Throughout the trip back, Masen stays attached to my side and continues to cling to me as we settle down in the living room.
"Oh, I wasn't expecting you guys back so soon," my mother says while exiting her bedroom. She notices Masen curled into me and everyone's somber expressions and rushes over to us. "Is everything okay? What happened?" she asks worriedly.
"We went to The Children's Museum and I was recognized. Needless to say, when we were leaving there was a swarm of paparazzi waiting for us. You know how it is with the cameras and yelling, well Masen just got a little spooked is all," I explain.
"Oh you poor dear," she says sadly, stroking his hair gently.
"I'm hungry," he says into my shirt.
We all chuckle. "You didn't feed him! He hasn't eaten since breakfast this morning," mom admonishes while poking my arm.
"Hey," I say holding my hands up in surrender, "we were just leaving to go get some lunch. We thought it was best to get back so we wouldn't get attacked again. We were just going to order some room service. Would you like anything?"
"No thank you. But pick what you want and I'll order it for you. What would you like Isabella?" Esme asks.
"Please, call me Bella. Nothing for me though. I should probably get going and leave you three to your afternoon," Ms. Swan politely declines, rising from her chair.
"Don't be ridiculous. If the paparazzi hadn't found you today, you would probably still be out enjoying the day. This will be the last time you'll see Masen before you move in officially. There's no reason to cut it short just because you're stuck in here," Esme mock scolds.
"Uh," Isabella splutters.
"She's right Isabella. You are more than welcome to stay. It will give you a chance to get more comfortable here as well for when you move in," I add.
"Well if you're sure," she agrees, accepting a menu from my mother.
Esme places the order and we turn on the TV and relax before our food arrives. Eventually Masen gets off of my lap and grabs a couple toys and starts playing on the floor. Once the food arrives, we gather at the table to enjoy our late lunch.
As we go to rejoin Esme in living room, Masen notices his painting sitting on the table and picks it up. "Nana, look what I painted today!" he says excitedly.
She smiles at him and grabs the painting from him. I see her smile fall slightly, the same as mine most likely did earlier in the day.
"Who are all of these people Masen?" she asks.
"That one is mommy," he points to the person in the house with the Xs for eyes, indicating her dying I'm assuming. "And that one is me," he points to the other stick person in the house. "That's Laurent," he motions to the person standing beside the house. "And that is you, me, and daddy," he points to the remaining people on the opposite side of the sheet, which I presume are meant to be standing in the hotel room.
"Why isn't Laurent in the house with you and your mom?" I ask as I grab the painting from my mother and sit Masen on my lap.
"Because he was watching the fire from outside while mommy and I were trapped inside," he shrugs as if it's no big deal.
"Was Laurent in the house when the fire started?" I ask feebly, not sure if I want to know the answer or not.
"I think so, but I don't know because I was in my room."
"Where were mommy and Laurent when you were in your room?"
"They were fighting in their room again; I always made sure I was in my room when they were fighting. Laurent would get really angry sometimes and throw things. They would hit me if I was sitting by him, so I would try to hide."
"So when did the house start on fire? How did you get out?" I ask staring at my son gravely.
"Well it got quite for a while and then the fire alarm started going off. It used to go off when mommy cooked sometimes but after a while it still wasn't turning off like it normally did. I opened my door and I saw a lot of smoke but it was coming from mommy's room not the kitchen. I started calling for her but I couldn't hear anything over the loud noise.
"I went to look for her and her door was shut to her room. I knocked on it but I didn't hear anything so I opened it. I remember the handle being really warm. When I opened the door the room was on fire and she was sleeping on the floor. I tried to wake her but she wouldn't get up. It was really hot and I was yelling for help but no one was coming and I couldn't get her to wake up," he says starting to sound slightly hysterical.
I set the painting on the ground and pull him closer to me. "Then what happened?" I encourage.
"I was going to go get a neighbor to help but when I got out of her room, other parts of the house were on fire too. I ran down the stairs but I couldn't get out the front door because of the fire. I tried to yell to get help but there was too much smoke and I kept coughing. I remembered about the back door, but we never used that one. I ran to it and got out and I tried calling for help but I kept falling. Someone came to help me and tried telling them to go help mom but I couldn't talk. The next thing I remember I was waking up in the hospital and they told me mommy was gone."
"I tried to get help, I swear I did," Masen cries into my shoulder, "but I got so tired."
"Sh, Masen. It's okay. No one blames you bud," I try to soothe, my heart breaking for him. "You did the best you could, it's not your fault."
"But she's gone, I couldn't save her. I tried to help, but she just wouldn't wake up," he sobs.
Tears are falling down my face as I hold my son to me, wishing there was some way I could take his pain away from him. I hear sniffles around me and look up to see Esme and Isabella holding each other's hands for support as they cry with us.
"Masen," I breathe, "it's not your fault. There is nothing else you could have done to help her. The doctors couldn't save her. If it weren't for you they wouldn't have even known she was in there. You're very brave for helping her when the room was on fire. I can't even think about what would have happened to you if you hadn't gone looking for help. I love you so much Masen. I won't let anyone hurt you ever again."
"I miss her," he cries. "Why can't she come back? What did I do?"
"You didn't do anything Masen. She's up in heaven with all the other angels watching over you. She'll always be with you even if you can't see her."
"She promised me that I would get to meet someday. But why did she have to die in order for me to meet you? Why didn't you want to meet me before? Why didn't you live with us like others daddies live with their families?"
A few more tears fall for the broken child in my arms. "I'm sorry. I didn't know about you until Mr. Jenkins brought you to me. Your mommy never told me about you. I would have been there if I had known Masen. Nothing will ever get in the way of me being there again. Remember, like I told you the other day? You're mine and I'm yours and we'll always be together."
"Do you promise?" he sniffles.
"I promise," I say softly. "Forever."
I kiss his head and carry him into the bedroom to lay him down for a nap. "Are you going to sleep too?" he asks half asleep.
"No, I have to go talk to nana and Isabella. But when you wake up you can come back out by us, okay?"
He nods his head and snuggles into the pillow. I watch him silently for a few minutes, stroking his hair and thinking about how much my life has changed in the past nine days.
Nine days ago my biggest worry was how I was going to get rid of Lauren. Now I'm a father watching over a shattered six year old. The more I think about Masen's life before he showed up in mine, the more saddened I become. If only I had been there for him, I could have saved him from Laurent's abuse and Tanya's poor parenting. I would have provided for him and made sure he knew he was loved. Instead I'm left with the remnants of a boy who was not only abused but also lost the one person he cared for.
I kiss him one last time before returning to the living room. I find them in much the same position that I left them, only now they are talking quietly amongst themselves.
"Oh honey, how's he doing?" mom asks worriedly, giving me a hug.
"I don't know honestly," I say running a hand through my hair. "He's sleeping now though, so hopefully he'll be better when he wakes up. I'm sorry you guys had to witness that."
"Oh hush. I'm honestly more surprised that's it's taken him this long to talk about it to be honest," Esme says matter-of-factly. "I thought maybe since he attached to you so well that he didn't think about it before. But he must have just been repressing it and talking about his mom probably reminded him of it."
"I don't mean to overstep any boundaries, but have you thought about maybe having him talk to someone about it? He suffered a traumatic experience with the fire and the death of his mother, add on top of that the issues with Laurent. He could benefit from speaking with someone," Ms. Swan inserts.
"No I haven't really thought of it. I think I'll see how things are going in a couple weeks after he has a routine and isn't constantly bombarded with new people. Then again with the paparazzi finding out about him, that could be hard too," I trail off.
"It was just a thought. But I should get going. I have to finish packing up my things before Saturday," Ms. Swan says.
"It'll just be me and Masen tomorrow if you want to swing by you're more than welcome. You could bring some of your stuff by too so you don't have to do it all on Saturday," Esme offers, giving her a hug.
"Oh that's a good idea. I'll call you tomorrow if I plan on stopping by, I don't know how much time I'll have," Isabella replies.
We finish saying our goodbyes and Esme and I relax back on the sofa, waiting for Masen to wake up.
A/N: Sorry it's taken me so long to update; I feel really bad about that. I hope there aren't too many errors. (If there are any major ones, please let me know and I'll fix them) I feel I rushed posting this because it's been so long but I wanted to get it out there. I get just as anxious to post chapters, as I'm sure you are to read them. I wanted to update for the holidays, but that obviously fell through. It was my intention to update this story before I did my other one, but I kept getting reviews for that one so I felt I needed to update the one that was getting more reviews (Wow that was wordy). That being said, if you want an update sooner… you NEED to review! It's been almost two months since I updated this story so let me know what you're thinking. It was hard for me to write this chapter because I had no idea what I wanted them to do, so I'm glad it's over. Hopefully the next chapter will come easier.